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World's Oldest Living Person, Emma Morano, Turns 117
(Photo: Emma Morano/AFP)
On a marble-topped chest of drawers stands proudly the Guinness World Records certificate declaring Emma Morano, born in 1899, to be the world's oldest living person.
Emma Morano, the last known person alive to have been born in the 19th century, celebrated her 117th birthday on November 27.
There is also a photograph of her and her doctor Carlo Bava holding eggs: the secret to her long life appears to lie in eschewing all received medical wisdom. "I eat two eggs a day, and that's it. And cookies. But I do not eat much because I have no teeth," she says.
The egg habit dates from when she was diagnosed with anaemia at 20 in the wake of World War I and a doctor advised her to eat three a day, two raw and one cooked. She maintained that regime for 90 years and is believed to have eaten over 100,000 eggs and counting.
"Emma has always eaten very few vegetables, very little fruit. When I met her, she ate three eggs per day, two raw in the morning and then an omelette at noon, and chicken at dinner," said Bava, who has been her doctor for the past 27 years. Now she lives mostly on biscuits "and does not want to eat meat because she doesn't like it anymore and someone told her it causes cancer," he said.
A 'precarious equilibrium'
"People come. I don't invite anybody but they come. From America, Switzerland, Austria, Turin, Milan... They come from all over to see me," she says with an amused smile.
Birthdays aside, Morano is a solitary person. Having left her violent husband in 1938 shortly after the death in infancy of her only son, she lived alone, working in a factory producing jute sacks to support herself.
She clung to her independence, only taking on a full-time caregiver last year, though she has not left her small two-room apartment for 20 years, and has been bed-bound for the last year. While her mind is alert, she is very deaf, speaks with difficulty and does not see well enough to watch television, spending her time instead either sleeping or snacking.
Bava puts her longevity party down to genetics -- Morano's mother died at 91 and at least two of her sisters lived to be over 100 -- but said having a daily routine and her great strength of character had also likely played their parts.
"She is a very determined person. She has never wanted to go to hospital, she's never received any particular (health) care. She's suffered from a bit of bronchitis, had a (blood) transfusion, and some stitches, but always at home."
"Now she's well, she's very well, but it's clear she lives every day in a very, very precarious equilibrium," he said.
Bava admits he feels a bit like "the keeper of the Tower of Pisa, which has been leaning for centuries. The day it topples over, someone will be held responsible. "When Emma dies, people will hold me accountable".
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